Muthoni wa Gichuru was announced as the CODE Burt Prize for African Young Adult Literature Kenya 2018 winner at a ceremony at the Crowne Plaza, Nairobi on September 28, 2018.
The Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature is one of the leading literary prizes on the continent focusing on the often ignored area of young adult fiction. The prize has been running for the last decade and has produced winners for Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana since 2008. In Kenya, the winners of the awards in previous years were Adipo Sidang’ (2017), Nicholas Kamau (2016), Chris Okemwa (2015), Elizabeth Kibui (2014), Argwings Otieno (2013) and Antony Mugo (2012).
In 2017, the format for the prize changed with the focus on a regional prize where the winner would go home with a pretty decent pay day of 10,000 Canadian Dollars. Those who are shortlisted at the national level would be thrown into a pool with writers from the three other countries where the winner would be picked. The winners of the all-star format over the last two years have been Ethiopian Elshadai Tesfaye (2017) and Kenyan Kinyanjui Kombani (2018).
The process for the latest edition of the competition started earlier in the year with a callout for manuscripts from the four territories that the prize happens. Over the last week or so the individual country winners were made aware to the public.
In Kenya, the Burt Award is run in conjunction with the National Book Development Council of Kenya. Those who were shortlisted earlier in the year were Elizabeth Kabui, Muthoni wa Gichuru, Charles Okoth and Kinyanjui Kombani. Kabui had been shortlisted for The Hideaway (Oxford Publishers) and Gichuru was nominated for The Carving (Longhorn Publishers). Charles Okoth was in the running for his book, A Feast with the Dragon (Phoenix Publishers) while Kombani had two nominations, for Do or Do (Oxford University) and Eve’s Invention (Queenex Publishers).
The national winner announced at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi was Muthoni wa Gichuru as she won the 1,000 Canadian Dollars prize money. Ms Gichuru isn’t new to this prize having been shortlisted in 2016. She has also featured in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Shortlist, and the Miles Morland Scholarship shortlist.